Now What? How to Help Children Exposed to Pornography
You never thought your household would be the one dealing with a pornography problem. After all, you've always talked to your kids about avoiding pornography. You have filters installed to keep them safe online. You monitor their online activity. Somehow, however, pornography crept into your home--and now you have to deal with the consequences. Keeping your kids safe from pornography isn't just about preventing it from ever happening. It's also how you choose to deal with it once the exposure has occurred.
Keep It Age-Appropriate
There are several circumstances under which your child could have stumbled onto pornography. Sometimes, it's fairly innocent: they're browsing for something they don't realize could be dangerous and end up on a site that contains suggestive or outright pornographic material. In this case, it's best to discuss what your child saw clearly and simply, explain what it is, and then move on to something else--after blocking the website from your browser and updating your kids' online security settings. In other cases, a child's natural curiosity might lead to inappropriate internet searches. Then, it's time to explain why pornography isn't the best source of information about sexuality.
Discuss Why You Should Avoid It
You thought you'd had honest discussions with your child about pornography in the past. Now that it's surfaced, however, you're finding that your discussions weren't as complete as you would have liked. Rationally and calmly discuss why your child should avoid pornography. Emphasize the fact that pornographic material is founded in fantasy, not in reality, and that even mildly pornographic content is a slippery slope that can quickly lead to more hardcore material.
Encourage Curiosity Appropriately
Most children have a point where they become very curious about the opposite sex. The more forbidden they consider the information to be, the sneakier they will be about seeking it out. Instead of forbidding any discussion of the topic, look for appropriate ways to discuss changing bodies and sex with your child. Provide books that you feel are appropriate and have read yourself, answer your child's questions, and find other ways for them to learn the correct answers to their queries--ways that don't involve checking out inappropriate content on the internet. Make sure your child understands how to find the appropriate content.
Many children don't start out with a deep longing for sex. Instead, they're looking for something else--typically a heart connection. Children experience love in a variety of ways, and those who are drawn to physical affection may be more likely to seek out pornographic images. Keep in mind where the real longing is coming from and be willing to bring it up with your children. Discuss what they're really looking for, whether it's a relationship, belonging, or simply something to fill some empty time. Explain how pornography won't help them meet those needs--and might in fact do the opposite as it draws them further from the people and things that they really want to be around.
Create New Time-Fillers
If your child is busy, they have less time to search out pornography on the internet. You don't want to overreact and remove access to the internet entirely, but decreasing that access or finding other ways to fill the hours can be a great way to limit your child's ability to visit pornographic websites in the future. Look for ways to get out together as a family or to engage in more quality activities. Encourage your child to get outside. Visit the library together. The more quality things your child has to fill his or her mind, the less likely they will be to turn to pornography.
Pornography's introduction to your household can be very uncomfortable. It can also open the door for some deeper, more meaningful discussions with your child. How you handle the situation will have a great bearing on your child's willingness to trust you with difficult issues in the future. By handling the situation delicately, you will be able to better guide your child to more responsible choices in the future.